- Stella-Monica Mpande
My Reflections Following George Floyd’s Murder and the Black Lives Matter Movement
Updated: Jun 18, 2020
Anger. Rage. Fatigue. Hopelessness. Fatigue. Sadness. Fear. Fatigue. Anxiety. Frustration. Frustration. Hope…Fatigue…Hope…is why it took me a while to write this blog.
It’s almost as if my brain and emotional bandwidth had collapsed in an all-time depleted state of “empty”…but temporarily refueled…and then returned to “numb..”
So after a few weeks of conversations, observations, memories and a lot of self-reflection, what I can share at this very moment are eight thoughts:
1) We are clearly in the middle of a pivotal moment in history. And we are every character you have read about in those history books. Right now, we have the choice to script history in the direction that promotes the best version of ourselves and elevates ALL the highest caliber of our human dignity—if we want to. There are no auditions…perform as you wish…
2) Systemic racism and White privilege exist—they are not myths. It doesn’t help to address structural systems that maintain the racial discriminatory practices by reducing issues to individual racist actions that are separate from unaccountable systems. Pencil this: individual racism within an unaccountable system co-habit as a happily married couple. Systemic racism and White privilege did not spring overnight; they are reflections of a racial ideology that trace their roots to colonial legacies that cannot be overcome in one day, but must be confronted through the global revolutions that have been catalyzed by the horrendous broad daylight lynching of George Floyd. For some, systemic racism and White privilege are new headlines. For many Black people around the world—many black Americans and other Diaspora and even on the African continent—they have been a way of living, coping and part of a day-to-day framework of backstage notes that only now took front and center stage because what was usually done in the dark was now brought to the light, filmed on camera and went viral.
3) The role of fighting racism is reflexive, educational, advocational—and need not be judged. At one point, it seemed like how you displayed your activism was judged by others on social media—as if there is a right way or wrong way to mourn, grieve, or create change. Stop judging, please: This is an individual and collective journey. For some in positions of power and/or privilege, this is a time to examine, assess, and determine how they have been complicit to the bigger racial problem and where they can now be a solution at work or in their communities. The video ‘I Take Responsibility’ was one of the most recent initiatives by some White celebs in Hollywood to show their individual and collective responsibility against racism. This video stirred some controversy amongst some viewers. Others need to self-examine their hypocrisy when on one hand, they argue that White people need to be part of the solution, yet would criticize some White advocates of the cause who seek to “unlearn” hegemonic ideologies and contribute to the solution. But then, there were also other non-Black celeb-influencers wearing “Blackface” to show Black solidarity in the Black Lives Matter that also led to backlash. Then there are hypocrites who seek money, fame and glory as they monetize or crusade a humanitarian effort to fulfill their own selfish agenda. Those who prefer “action” participate in protests or lend resources to particular causes and groups. Others push legislation or work on advancing policy. Speaking of policy, congratulations—on June 10, 2020, the Louisville City Council Committee passed the Breonna Taylor Law! Still, there are others who are educators and are changing one mind at a time—be it virtually or through literature they disseminate. Ultimately, we are all learning, unlearning and re-learning in this struggle. We have to do what makes sense for each of us organically while being patient in correcting the faux-pas and missteps in our efforts to do right in our collective fight towards justice. There are so many online resources on how to self-educate and participate. This Black Lives Matter reading list is one way to start.
4) Not all Black people support the Black Lives Matter movement. Some Black people find it hypocritical, or believe it inaccurately depicts the realities of race relations and police brutality. Rather than debate—unless one is up for it—we should follow our hearts—and open ourselves to data, facts, statistics, reports, trends, history, the present and consider the source of material that recounts information. Note to all: research. Learn history. And be mindful of who our history-tellers are and how they frame their stories that craft the knowledge we call “facts.” Get a balanced perspective and make informed decisions.
5) Many discussions surrounding immigration and race relations are also in full effect. Dating from my school days to now, I still fail to understand the disrespect and disparaging attitudes that some Black immigrants in a host country like the United States, for example, harbor towards some African-Americans who actively advocate against racism in the country these immigrants now make their “home.” The historical bloody revolutions fought by our African-American brethren that led to many rights and legislation since the ‘60s afford many of the culminating liberties, freedoms and resources over the years that many Black Diaspora immigrants benefit from in this host country—which some African-Americans can’t even fully benefit from because of the systemic inequalities that persist in this country to this day. So do those immigrants who harbor this attitude pride themselves on being “model minorities” and refuse to be associated with certain African-Americans who fight for freedom because they fear to appear inferior, especially if one has to fight for what s/he lacks? Is there an innate need to preserve their positioning as the token Black individual in their circles, avoid potential embarrassment and prove that they are a “better Black version” than another? Will this appease that particular White individual who needs to be convinced that some Blacks rank higher than others? Africans born and raised in Africa may have a strong sense of national and cultural identity and history that African-Americans lost over the centuries and have reconstructed in other ways, as a result of the slave trade. The resulting diasporic identity formations still do not justify disrespect between the groups—especially when we are still in the same boat in the 21st century (no pun intended). Otherwise, then congratulations: this division is a successful outcome of hegemony at its finest, designed to weaken ethnic groups within a race that are pitted against each other at a time that a global diasporic union is necessary to combat racism together.
My argument is not to address some of the disparities that complicate the relationship between Africans and African-Americans (that’s a separate conversation for another time). I simply believe that all Black immigrants in the larger Diaspora and Africans on the continent share a collective identity that should prompts us to ,mobilize collectively against systemic racism. Those suffering from a superiority complex that they mask through a self-titled black “bourgeoisie” or “elitist” mind frame could benefit from deep introspection and a revisit of history and facts. On a different note, I stumbled on an interesting article explaining a Nigerian mother’s experience speaking to her daughter about George Floyd.
6) Stating that an unequal system exists does not mean that one is angry or assumes the victim role. It means that one is abundantly clear that the playing field is unequal—even if it may not be their own story. Admitting that there is a disparate system does not weaken or jeopardize your position of success—unless your positioning is already frail. I can be the most successful person in the world and benefit from the opportunities that have afforded me luxuries and decent paychecks. Yet, I can also very lucidly state that the system has been unfair to myself and/or others who may have confronted injustices that have led us to fight our way to the top—and are still fighting. But let’s not get it twisted: A racist person will not stop their racist attitude or behavior because you have mastered the Queen’s English accent or hail from royalty in your hometown. A racist person may tolerate you…yet still harbor racism in their heart. And that is ultimately between them and God. However, let us not forget Christian Cooper who was a Harvard graduate bird watching in a park wearing glasses and regular attire (I don’t know how much more basic this profile could be) who met Amy Cooper. Amy, famously dubbed as “Karen,” was a White woman who called the police and feigned her attack because she could not stand that a Black man would position himself in authority as he corrects her to observe the laws of the park and hence, challenge her position of privilege. This position of privilege is what Amy attempted to restore by dialing the 911 Power-Rangers button and using the linguistic secret code of “a Black man is attacking me” damsel in distress act that she knew would result in her defense because guess what…history has shown that this works. Forget that Christian Cooper was a Harvard graduate or currently worked for a prestigious company. That didn’t save him from being racial profiled and attacked. The difference was that the police did not arrive to shoot and kill him, fortunately. However, this story could have ended fatally, like so many others.
7) Privilege that is challenged will always regard equality and righteousness as oppressive. Accountability, justice and transparency are bitter pills that can cause side effects of hysteria and temper tantrums for anyone who has cheated, lied or stolen their way to success. Trust me, I have observed this in real time. It is almost fascinating to watch…almost.
8) And lastly, for the record: “All Lives Matter” is a very separate argument from “Black Lives Matter.” Paying attention to what needs immediate focus does not nullify what is also true; it prioritizes our time and resources in a crisis. We pronounce that Black Lives Matter because the constant dehumanization of Black men, Black women and Black children who are targeted, brutalized by the police, unfairly tried in court and killed clearly indicates that Black Lives DON’T Matter. Which, by the way, discredits the notion that 'All Lives Matter’. Do “All Lives Matter” when Black lives clearly don't?! Should “All Lives Matter?” Yes. Do “All Lives Matter?” The systemic oppression of Blacks would give you the impression that they don’t. An interesting analogy: “If my spouse comes to me in obvious pain and asks, “Do you love me?”, an answer of “I love everyone” would be truthful, but also hurtful and cruel in the moment. If a co-worker comes to me upset and says, “My father just died,” a response of “Everyone’s parents die,” would be truthful, but hurtful and cruel in the moment. So, when a friend speaks up in a time of obvious pain and hurt and says “Black lives matter,” a response of “All lives matter,” is truthful. But it’s hurtful and cruel in the moment.” (Doug Williford)
So again…We are ALL scripting history right now. All characters welcome. Black, Brown, White…if we are on the right side of history, let us come together. When I participated in the peaceful protest in Washington DC, I was proud to see this unity. So to you: What role do you play in 2020 in fighting racism and injustice today?
And special recognition to those who have been on the frontlines of Covid-19 and are also fighting against racism…thank you for all that you do. Sincerely, God bless you.
More thoughts to contemplate over the next few weeks. Stay tuned...